Der Bunker is the German directorial debut from Nikias Chryssos – and it must be one of the most unique, eccentric feature debuts ever.
The main protagonist is a nameless character referred to only as ‘the Student’ throughout the film. Hoping to find peace and quiet so he can make progress with his work – apparently some groundbreaking scientific stuff involving the Higgs particle theory – he moves in with a family (Mother, Father and son Klaus, who is the only named character) as their new lodger. Yet this is no typical family; they live in a bunker, and the Student’s room has no windows, despite the property having been advertised as a ‘lake-side home with a view’.
Furthermore Klaus is being led to believe by his parents that he will one day be president of the United States, and his Father is home schooling him in the bunker to prepare him for this future. One problem (aside from the obvious): Klaus does not seem particularly intelligent, struggling to remember even the capital cities of other European countries like France. Therefore Mother and Father soon suggest to the Student that he take over Klaus’ education, and after some gentle prodding, the Student reluctantly agrees despite it interfering with the important work that was the main purpose of his stay.
Mother also has a ‘presence’ – whether it be some kind of alien, god, or a figment of her own subconscious – called ‘Heinrich’ that inhabits a scar on her leg, regularly giving her instructions for dealing with Klaus (and later, the Student) as they insidiously plan out his upbringing.
Straight up; this film is crazy. But crazy in a good way. Its eccentricities aren’t there just for the sake of mindless fun – director Chryssos clearly intends meaning behind his choices, from the Student’s somewhat stalled attempts to work on the Higgs particle theory, to themes regarding unrealistic expectations for one’s children and even, perhaps, the dangers of following an unseen ‘higher power’ without question. Is it significant that the only two named characters of the movie are the son, Klaus, and the unseen Heinrich? Almost certainly; it seems the other three people involved are merely pawns in the game.
Of course, whether one feels they take anything meaningful from it will depend on the individual. Personally I suspect Der Bunker could be a masterpiece in due time – but on a single viewing I’m still not quite sure.
7 / 10